As some colleges around the nation seem politically at ends, it is interesting to uncover what Wilkes students think and know of incidents like the “cancellation” of “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley in California.
Students of The Berkeley Patriot, a student-run conservative online publication at UC Berkeley, were planning “Free Speech Week” to begin on Sept. 24. The event would welcome on campus conservative speakers Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos. Their arrival, however, would also welcome retaliation from students and faculty, as it did with conservative radio host Ben Shapiro when he spoke on Berkeley’s campus just days before.
The shutdown of “Free Speech Week” was expressed differently across the board. Local California website Berkeleyside reported Berkeley Patriot students cancelled the event for safety reasons, Fox News reported on the confusion surrounding the event, CNN’s website provided no story on “Free Speech Week” and The Berkeley Patriot themselves expressed the event was blocked by Berkeley faculty.
Milo Yiannopoulos’ YouTube channel featured segments from members of the Berkeley Patriot days before “Free Speech Week.” It was on this platform that the students expressed Berkeley faculty’s unwillingness to work with them on the event.
Many Wilkes students obtain their news through social media. Freshmen Christina Mahama, Francesco Bellia and Jess Murandi attributed their news information to Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat. Though details of “Free Speech Week” seem to be primarily accessible through social media, these students were unaware of the event and speakers.
Freshman Greg Chrysler; sophomore Tyler Martz, and senior Shaiva Shah were also unaware of the incident at UC Berkeley and mutual on the idea of politics being discussed at Wilkes University. Other students, however, had opinions on British political commentator, Milo Yiannopoulos.
“Inflammatory,” was the word senior Cody Morcom, used to describe Yiannopoulos. Morcom also felt bringing Milo to Wilkes would be “divisive.”
Senior Cody Colarusso, on the other hand, believes Yiannopolus is a radical conservative, but finds Yiannopoulos’ methods necessary to challenge the radical left. Like the mutual students, Colarusso stated he “couldn’t care” if political commentators speak at Wilkes as long as as they do not take his parking spot.
If a political figure is to speak on a campus, the information should be accurate, objective and fair, according to Dr. Mark Stine, head of the Communication Studies Department and faculty adviser for the Wilkes College Republicans.
Stine encourages the College Republicans and Democrats to bring political discussions to Wilkes, noting students would benefit from understanding different points of views.
Controversy surrounded “Free Speech Week” from the start. The idea, right-wing events are suppressed by leftist groups such as Antifa. Both sides offer their motives whether it be practicing free speech or combating hate speech. It is often difficult to know where the lines are drawn.
Free speech “doesn’t matter if it’s not offensive, or dangerous, or edgy, or obnoxious, or controversial…” according to Yiannopoulos. This draws on the idea that change can only occur and needed conversations begin when someone says something controversial.